Fox // 2009 // 88 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Kelly (Retired) // March 17th, 2010
"Oh, it's on like Donkey Kong!" -- An example of the film's witty and culturally relevant dialogue
In 2007, Alvin and the Chipmunks was a huge hit, an inexplicably mediocre family film that found some serious Box-Office dollar during its Christmas release. A sequel was bound to follow and last year in the same December window Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel was unleashed. Whilst the first film was merely a substandard and unmemorable movie, The Squeakquel is a nauseatingly awful cinematic excursion. The production regurgitated a banal story and some rancid comedic interludes in pursuit of financial gratification; with $436 million worldwide suggesting it succeeded in attaining its target. This statistic is deeply worrying. If people are willing to pay big bucks for something as atrocious as The Squeakquel, what incentive does Hollywood have for making intrepid or challenging films? If barrel scraping can generate vast amounts of cash, why bother with other sorts of entertainment?
The story is so lazily hacked together it wouldn't surprise me if it was made up as the project was shooting. Alvin and The Chipmunks are global music stars, but after one particularly reckless performance their human guardian Dave (Jason Lee, My Name is Earl) is left hospitalized in Paris. On returning to America the Chipmunks are watched over by Toby (Zachary Levi, Chuck) a nerdy but well intentioned relative of Dave's. They start school (for no logical reason) and whilst Alvin is ingratiated into the jock culture, fellow band members Simon and Theodore are left to suffer the nasty side of the education system. To make matters even more unpleasant the trio has to face off against the Chipettes (a band of female Chipmunks) in a school music contest. The Chipettes are predictably being managed by the first film's villain Ian Hawke (David Cross, Year One). If any of this description entices you, rent this movie, you'll probably love it. However, if it all sounds like disastrously uninvolving nonsense, then you feel the same way as me. Congratulations.
One of the mystifying things about this lousy film is the array of vocal talent. Lending their voices to the CGI furballs are folks like Justin Long (Planet 51), Anna Faris (Observe and Report), Amy Poehler (Blades of Glory), and Christina Applegate (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy). Yet due to the way the dialogue is sped up and driven to an inhumanly high pitch it's impossible to actually hear the actors at work. Every chipmunk in the movie sounds exactly the same, rendering the talent obsolete. Playing the humans in the story we have fairly likable performers like Jason Lee, David Cross and Zachary Levi; yet each of them looks mortified concerning their contribution. Lee does his best to try and imbue his character (and the story) with a sense of parental discontent, but something this dumb just doesn't allow for that level of noble ambition. Nobody impresses and ultimately this is a nasty black stain on everyone's CV. The actors might have made a decent chunk of money, but something this bad is bound to have consumed a little of their soul too.
The Chipmunks are designed as cute and lovable beings but in fact they are an obnoxious and saccharine crew of rodents. Alvin in particular is really not a hero worth rooting for and it's hard to see children engaging with him on a personal level. Theodore and Simon are a little more lovable (simply because they don't spout gag reflex ticking one liners every other minute) but are undoubtedly one dimensional. The Chipettes are actually a bit more palatable and have been afforded some heart, but their burgeoning romance with The Chipmunks is sour and leads to a spate of dreadfully cheesy jokes. The animation is slightly better than average but given the film's $75 million budget, it still disappoints. After all, the money definitely didn't go on the script; so where exactly was it spent? Maybe it was used to finance the multiple pop covers sung by the Chipmunks. The oeuvres of multiple artists are sullied by having squeaky animated chipmunks sing them and deploying ridiculous dance moves at the same time. For a movie that seemingly wants to celebrate music, The Squeakqueldoes a pretty commendable job of defecating over the entire medium.
The Squeakquel was directed by Betty Thomas, the filmmaker behind the foul 2006 teen flick John Tucker Must Die. This film isn't quite as bad as that one, but only because here Thomas doesn't even have a decent premise to screw up. Thomas demonstrates yet again that she can't direct comedy and helms the picture with a sluggish touch and penchant for soggy slapstick. The screenplay (which took three people to write!) is just as useless. The story is a crudely stitched up selection of clichés with a phenomenally underwhelming finale. I realize this is kids fare but even the least discriminating 7-year-old will surely be bored by this unadventurous and unfunny travesty. The Squeakquel is a waste of celluloid, but sadly is probably not the last we'll see of this dogged franchise.
The discs provided for this review were screeners and so it's unfair to comment on the video or audio quality. However rafts of extras were included for appraisal and they're nearly as malnourished as the actual film. The first disc focuses on the music in the movie and allows viewers to watch all the various musical performances as either individual snippets or as a group. There is also a featurette concerning the film's final scene involving a school concert. This piece focuses on assembling other talent along with the Chipmunks and on shooting the sequence. It's dull and shallow; unlikely to be of interest to adult or child. The second disc has quite a few featurettes but none of them are particularly interesting. A few that look at the production actually assume a mocking MTV style tone but fail in their quest for satirical laughs. The best feature is a 10 minute examination of the character's history, they may be the stars of some dismal movies but they have a formidable cartoon legacy. Rounding out the package is a batch of supposed music videos. Only the heartiest of fans will glean pleasure from this DVD release.
The Squeakquel makes me pine for the overbearing blandness of the original. It's so desperately stale and unoriginal there is actually a Silence of the Lambs joke. In 2009, that's just sad.
Review content copyright © 2010 Daniel Kelly; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Music Videos